Back In My Day

William MurphyBasketball, General2 Comments

At some point in our lives, we have all found ourselves engaged in a “Back In My Day” conversation. You know what I’m talking about…the one where a topic comes up and someone, usually an older individual, seizes the opportunity to give a brief history of how things were so much better regarding said topic back in their day. (Point of caution: If you’re not careful, the “Back in My Day Guy” will turn the conversation into a competition in which he one-ups every feat you mention.) In the last few years, with the rise of Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been an unprecedented level of absurd criticism of their style of play and almost deafening cries, attempting to diminish the accomplishments of this machine that we have never seen before.

“This team wouldn’t make it back in the day because you could handcheck and they would be too soft.” (Because they control the rules or the era they were born right?)

“All Steph can do is shoot and he would be average if he played in previous eras.” (Because shooting the basketball is a new concept that was not used in eras past right?)

“The league is watered down now, guys are less skilled, and there was more competition back in the day.” (Because every team competed for ‘ships and every roster was filled with star talent right?)

Here’s the reality. People love to remember things the way they never were.

I don’t think it’s an intentional thing either. I think it’s part of the connection that we all have with the eras that we grew up watching. As sports fans, it means something to say we watched person X play and he was the greatest of all time. It means something to witness records broken during our lifetime and then be able to tell our kids about it. The problem is that our nostalgic lenses often have us seeing illusions that blur the lines between real and fantasy. When something or someone new comes along, we absolutely cannot accept that this new thing is comparable or better, so we do the next best thing…we diminish it.

“Yea, they won 73 but it was in a weak league.”

“He can shoot, but they aren’t clotheslining and DDTing him like they did in the 80s.”

In a sense, we become that “Back in My Day” guy that we come to despise having an argument with. Trust me because I have been that guy before. Michael Jordan was next to Jesus Christ to me in how I viewed him growing up. He was the greatest I had ever seen and I developed an affinity for him. I learned everything about him. I read books and memorized stats. I cried when his father was killed and he retired, celebrated when he returned, and cried again when he retired (no comment on the Wizards years)…

And because of all of this, I could not embrace someone challenging that throne. I could not even fathom someone being mentioned in the same breath as MJ. As a result, I spent much of Kobe’s career, never truly appreciating what he brought to the floor each night. I denied the similarities in their games and mannerisms. There would never be another MJ.

Truth be told, there wasn’t another MJ. He was Kobe Bryant, his own man…and there will never be another Mamba. There will never be another Magic, Larry, or Lebron. There will never be another Kareem, Bill or Wilt.

And there will never be another Steph.

It was only until I removed my rose-colored glasses and came to appreciate Kobe’s individual greatness that I could stop the unnecessary comparisons or need to try to diminish anything or anyone that rivaled MJ. There is no real need to compare iconic sports figures; they are already elite in their own right. Being the “Back in My Day Guy” causes you to miss greatness because of a frivolous quest to rank and assign value to people and events relative to your own lived experiences…I repeat, “your own lived experiences”. 

We owe it to this new age of athletes to give them their own stage, free from the shadows of our idols. Sure, we will always debate who was better, but let’s be cautious in downplaying greatness because it fails to fit our limited definitions. Furthermore, the main weakness of the “Back in My Day” guy is that he is grasping for air when trying to contextualize something he has never seen before.

Let’s just let these guys be great and enjoy what we are witnessing in all of our favorite sports. Besides…this new generation of youngsters could not care less about how basketball resembled hand to hand combat when you came up.

2 Comments on “Back In My Day”

  1. Great read! We all can attest to being that “Back In My Day” guy. I grew up watching MJ demolish the NBA night end and night out and came to the conclusion that no one will ever be greater than him. I mean, look at his accomplishments, just the NBA Finals itself … 6-6 in NBA Finals which produced 6 MVP’s. And when Golden State Warriors won the championship last year, my “Back In The Day” mentality was exposed because I immediately said Jordan would have taken his team and he would have been the MVP of the Finals. Yet Curry wasn’t the MVP of the Finals, I was still witnessing greatest and we have seen that this season as well. Curry is just a pure shooter.

    Needless to say, I was in outrage when Kobe came to the league and I watched him closely: I hated him because he reminded me so much on the great icon we often refer to as the “Goat”. I missed out on his career for 2 reasons:
    1. He reminded too much like Jordan and
    2. I was never a Lakers’ fan (no disrespect to LakersNation). It was only this year, I learned to appreciate greatness and embrace the player’s individuality rather than looking back in the era where I thought was tougher and wrestling moves would only get you a foul.

    I agree with you 100%, there will never be another Curry, Kobe, MJ and others who have left a legacy in this game we love to watch and play and often referee and coach. We all need to just enjoy the ride until the next person comes along and leave his legacy to this game.

  2. Man, I’m not gonna lie, the reason I feel the way I do about LeBron is because of my “Back In The Day” mentality. It literally made me sick to my stomach when someone would compare Bron to MJ. My thoughts were “How can you compare what he’s done to what MJ did in his era”. I was also one of the guys who thought that the Jordan era(90’s) was tougher than the league is now. I mean, I saw MJ get blasted for a number of years by my beloved #Pistons, then I also saw the maturation process he had to go through as a player to get himself and his team over the hump. There’s no doubt about the fact that LeBron is an amazing player, it’s just my blinders would not allow me to see him in the same light as the “GOAT”. So William Murphy, you are not alone in being that “Back In My Day” guy, because I was once that guy too…

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